CARSON, Calif — An early goal by Justin Braun was the difference as Chivas USA defeated D.C. United at Home Depot Center on Sunday evening.
Braun struck in the 13th minute of the match when after receiving a cross in from Ante Jazic, the burly striker brushed aside defender Barry Rice and sent in a looping header that was too much for goalkeeper Troy Perkins to handle. The goal was Braun's eight of the season, which gives him the team lead.
"My job is to score goals and I always have the confidence that the ball is going in for me and (my goal) was good for the team and gave us the win," said Braun. "Our goal has been to win every game at home and tonight was the first step."
D.C. United struggled to generate offense throughout the match with many of their key starters –including Bill Hamid, Andy Najar and Chris Pontius — left on the bench in preparation for the club's U.S. Open Cup Semifinals. With the Open Cup being the club's only realistic chance to win a trophy this season, head coach Ben Olsen gave his reserves their chance against Chivas.
It was not until several of the key starters were inserted into the line up during the second half that United was able to create consistent pressure on net. Adding the most energy was Najar who entered in the 57th minute and immediately made in impact streaking down the wing against the Chivas defense. It was in the 69th minute, United would get their best chance on goal as veteran forward Jaime Moreno fired in a header off a corner kick that forced a save off the line by Chivas defender Mariano Trujillo.
By failing to come back from the early deficit, the struggling United is now 1-15-1 when going down first. For the league's cellar dwellers it was once again business as usual.
"Overall we actually played pretty well. I felt we had a lot of the possession, we created a decent amount of chances," said midfielder Stephen King. "But it’s just been the theme of the season, where we create things but we just don’t finish them then Braun had a nice goal and we couldn't put one away."
While D.C. sought to utilize its bench ahead of the midweek fixture, Martin Vasquez's men brought out what is arguably considered the club's first XI during Sunday's match. Although many are expecting the Rojiblancos to concede defeat, the optimistic Chivas USA coach refuses to give up points in league even if it means sacrificing rest for the Open Cup semifinal.
“We still have an opportunity in league play,” said Vasquez. “We’re not going to throw in the towel. We’re going to keep taking it one game at a time. Playing at home – we needed to get a win and that will give us confidence for Wednesday’s game.”
Both clubs will now look ahead to the U.S. Open Cup with D.C. taking on Columbus and Chivas USA facing off against the defending Cup champion Seattle Sounders on Wednesday in Seattle. The match is the first U.S. Open Cup semifinal for Chivas USA and arguably the most important match for a club whose playoff hopes are dwindling.
"A chance to get to the Final of the Open Cup is something that the club has never had the opportunity to do so to play in the semifinal is big and we need to make the most of it," said Chivas USA captain Jonathan Bornstein. " We need to come away with a win and keep a rally going and carry it into the league."